SINGAPORE — Residents and nature lovers had mixed reactions to the news that the Cross Island Line (CRL) will cut across the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) based on the direct alignment option.
Transport authorities made the announcement on Wednesday evening (4 December), following six years of consultation with various stakeholders, including nature and heritage groups, commuters and residents.
At 70 metres below ground level - compared with the typical 20 to 30 metres underground - the depth of the two kilometres stretch of the direct alignment route is equivalent to the height of a 25-storey HDB block, making it the deepest rail tunnel in Singapore.
In comparison, the skirting alignment option would require a depth of 45 metres.
The tunnel length for the direct alignment option is 4km with 2km tunnelling under the CCNR, compared with the 9km tunnel length under the skirting alignment option.
Addressing reporters outside Botanic Gardens MRT, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min said that the process of arriving at the decision had been a “transparent” one, with various stakeholders consulted.
What do stakeholders think?
Civil servant Kelvin Tan, 44, and Dr Daniel Yeo, 46, live in Lakeview Estate and Yew Lian Park, respectively, where the residences lie along the previously proposed skirting alignment route.
Dr Yeo, a father of two, told reporters that he felt it was the right decision by authorities. “I think it is a genuine and real attempt by the government to do the right thing by everyone. I would like the nature lovers to take a step back and re-assess their priorities, because I think Singapore is a small place, of course we need to husband our nature resources, but let’s put our priorities right and have our citizens first.”
Tan, a father of four, said that it had been a long but well thought-out process where views from both sides had been taken into consideration. Residents have been anxious about the project especially the older residents, some of whom have lived in his estate for almost 50 years, according to Tan.
“So a lot of the concerns were whether their property would be acquired, whether there would be structural damage, also noise, noting that they had also been affected by the construction of the Thomson Line,” Tan said.
The CCNR occupies over 2,000 hectares of forest cover and is home to some of the richest forests in terms of biodiversity. Nature Society (Singapore) president Shawn Lum noted that the critically endangered Raffles Banded Langur and its forest habitat, are found in and around the proposed worksite on Island Club Road.
Based on the site evaluation, Lam said the impact of CRL tunnelling and related works can be kept to a moderate level if mitigation measures are properly implemented.
“We hope, together with the LTA and other agencies, that we can continue to refine detailed plans and mitigation measures and monitoring to ensure that this singular species will not be adversely impacted.”
Spider enthusiast and conservationist Joseph Koh, 70, said, “Six years ago, I would (have been) very upset with the decision. If you ask me now, I would say that (the direct) alignment is not the preferred choice of the nature groups, but it is also not unexpected.”
He added that in meetings with the Land Transport Authority and the government, a number of mitigating measures and conditions to help cushion the impact of the alignment were discussed.
“The fact is that there is no digging within the nature reserve boundary....based on facts (and) evidence, (the direct) alignment is not going to cause the total destruction of the ecological integrity of CCNR.”